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iPads, Amazon, E-Books, and What It All Means

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

iPads, Amazon, E-Books, and What It All Means

"With the promise of another e-book source and pricing scheme to accompany the iPad, and the recent fracas between Mcmillan and Amazon about e-book pricing, what is the future of e-books and what does this mean for BK?"

Johanna Vondeling, Berrett-Koehler VP for Editorial and Digital responds:

Given all the recent media attention to developments with e-readers, we thought now would be a good opportunity to update you on Berrett-Koehler’s efforts in the digital publishing arena. Below are some highlights. Please know that we are pursuing a host of additional initiatives not addressed in this post, and that we would be happy to respond to any questions you might have.

As many of you know, on January 27, 2010, Apple announced the forthcoming release of the iPad, along with plans for an online bookstore. This is an exciting development for digital publishing, as the device holds the promise of a quantum leap forward in the e-reading experience. It is our hope to have Berrett-Koehler content available via Apple’s iBookstore as soon as possible. We are in conversation with Apple representatives about establishing procedures for incorporating content into their programs, many dimensions of which are still under construction. And we are accelerating efforts to convert content into the ePub format they have identified as required for participation.

Separately, we will be experimenting this year with developing media-rich applications (“apps”) for Apple devices. We are developing these apps in tandem with selected forthcoming BK print publications, for simultaneous launch. It is our hope that these experiments with apps will provide lessons and guidance that we can apply to the entire BK digital portfolio in 2011.

Also, last week we signed an agreement with Google that will ensure BK content will be available for sale via their Google Editions program, currently slated for launch in the second quarter of 2010. Much Berrett-Koehler content is already available for free preview through Google’s Book Search program; please feel free to visit www.books.google.com to see your content’s presence in that program, and let us know if you have questions. Once Google Editions launches, readers who wish to access BK works in their entirety through Google’s infrastructure will be able to do so for a fee. Please note that Google Editions is a separate concern from the ongoing lawsuit between Google and the Authors Guild over so-called “orphan works” -- works that are under copyright but no longer commercially available for sale. The content that we will make available for purchase through Google Editions is content BK authors have granted us permission to sell or license to others.

We also continue to make your content available for sale through a growing stable of other valued retail and licensing partners, including (but not limited to) Amazon’s Kindle program, BarnesandNoble.com, Books24X7, ReadHowYouWant, Safari Books Online, NetLibrary, Ebrary, Ebooks.com, Scribd, and Docstoc. And, of course, more than 230 e-books and 220 whitepapers are available for purchase via www.bkconnection.com. Our goal is to ensure your content is available through as many channels as possible, as we recognize and respect the great diversity of preferences regarding stores, formats, and devices within the worldwide community of readers.

Note: For books that are commercially available for sale, BK will continue to manage the relationship with all of these partners, as provided for in the Grant of Rights in the BK publication agreement. BK authors do not need to submit their in-print books directly to Google, Apple, or any other third party. BK will fulfill that role as part of our publication and marketing responsibilities.

In sum, BK is investing aggressively in building the relationships and infrastructure necessary to make your assets available to customers who would like to access content through digital means. Our immediate plans are to prioritize converting available and forthcoming publications into ePub. Developing new, media-rich publications (or revisiting existing publications to enhance them with new, media-rich features-about which some of you have inquired) is an expensive and complex endeavor that we plan to consider only after we have executed on our ePub conversion initiatives. At 5% of overall BK revenues in 2009, digital sales are still a small slice of the pie relative to print sales and translation rights revenue; however, we share the widely-held belief that demand for digital content will continue to grow dramatically in 2010 and beyond.